Saturday, March 19, 2011

layman's terms

In the course of conversations it often becomes necessary to highlight to your conversant that you don't understand a thing they just said, and, instead of confessing your ignorance, you are allowed to give them the same signal by asking them to describe the concept in "layman's terms".

This refers to the layman, or a non-expert in a given field of knowledge. For example, instead of watching instructional YouTube videos on swimming, causing your coworkers no small amount of haughty amusement at your ignorance, if you asked someone to describe how to swim in layman's terms, they might respond by saying something like this:

Swimming is a sport in which one propels one's body through water occupied by people about whom one typically needs to make heroic assumptions about personal hygiene in order to swim next to without puking.1

It is spelled, and this is very important:

L - A - Y - M - A - N

It is not spelled, and this is more important:

L - A - M - A - N

This is because there is a figure in the Book of Mormon, the volume of scripture you likely consider heretical, named Laman.

Let me tell you: spending the majority of your life wondering why everyone wants things described in terms appropriate for a relatively obscure man living in 600 BC Jerusalem is a tad bit confusing.

I eventually reconciled the problem in my mind by figuring Laman's terms were concepts which would have been familiar to a figure in pre-industrial societies. So references to telephones, electricity, cars, etc., would all have to be stricken to appropriately qualify as Laman's terms. That, or, since Laman was an example of a particularly unrighteous man, they were crass or unrefined terms, maybe the sort of terms only wicked people would use.

The only outstanding confusion was why people with no connection to mormonism would make these casual references. This was a source of no small amount of speculation in my early life.

Imagine my surprise when reading the correct spelling. It made so much more sense.

In Laman's terms, it came to pass that it maketh more senseth.2

1. I will not, however, describe my aversions in layman's terms. Suffice it to say my allusion does not restrict itself solely to the washing of one's hands, or even the bloody bandage I swam over last night.
2. In related news, chaos is pronounced kay-oss, and it is not pronounced cha-ohs, and the two are not synonyms, one which you are familiar with by hearing, and one by sight. Hopefully you learned that before your senior year in High School. Just sayin'.


Aroura said...

"heroic assumptions" - love it. Well, the sound of it, not the having to do it. Who needs casual sex and drug use to contract disease when you can have bloody bandages floating by your face and in the water you inadvertantly swallow (along with the urine and occasional feces of course). <--- that urine and feces is in reference to said matter in a swimming pool and NOT on its own. ew.

chris said...

okay, I think I'm going to puke. I was trying to avoid thinking too deeply about it, but now I'll never be able to swim again.